East West Rail CEO and Bedford mayor to be quizzed by Parliament's transport committee next week

You can watch it online
Closeup of railway tracks. Picture: PixabayCloseup of railway tracks. Picture: Pixabay
Closeup of railway tracks. Picture: Pixabay

East West Rail’s CEO and Bedford’s mayor are among the people set to be quizzed by MPs as Parliament's transport committee scrutinises the rail project next week.

Beth West, Chief Executive Officer of the company and mayor Tom Wootton will be joined by others including Rail Minister Huw Merriman and Department for Transport officials during the session, which is part of the committee’s strategic transport objectives inquiry.

And you can log in to Parliamentlive.tv to watch the session, which starts at 9.30am on Wednesday, March 6.

East West Rail aims to establish a line linking Oxford and Cambridge via Bicester, Milton Keynes and Bedford. The project, with an estimated cost of £6-7bn, was announced in 2013 and the East West Railway Company was set up in 2017.

The session follows a National Audit Office (NAO) report – published in December – which said the Government “is not yet clear how the benefits of the project will be achieved nor how it aligns to other government plans for growth in the region”. The report did not provide a value-for-money appraisal of the project.

Witnesses will be asked about the case for building East West Rail, and how different strategic objectives were considered and prioritised in the lead-up to the project being green-lit, such as local economic growth, housing development and improving connectivity between cities along the route.

As well as seeking an update on how plans are progressing, MPs will want to hear how local government, businesses and residents have been consulted and communicated with, and how the Government and EWR will respond to the findings of the NAO’s report.

There will also be questions about to what extent different government departments have been planning for the project in a joined-up way, and whether the project will be fully electrified in order to minimise carbon emissions.

The Strategic Transport Objectives inquiry is a broader examination of how the Government works across departments and regional and local government to plan and invest in infrastructure and services, and the criteria and methods it uses for making decisions on major projects. This session will use East West Rail as a case study within the inquiry.